Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jordan Peterson

I've been wanting to make an in depth blog post on Jordan Peterson for quite some time now but I've been too busy to dedicate a whole day researching and writing such a piece. So I'm going to have to squeeze this down into an extended blurb instead.

In the past 2 years, Jordan Peterson has become an internet celebrity, largely from his popular videos on YouTube. Let me begin by saying I am both a fan and a critic of Peterson. I can see his good, his bad, and his ugly sides. And I've noticed that with most people, they either love him or hate him. I'm a little of both. I've seen events where I've thought Peterson was absolutely killing it. Like this one below:

But then I've seen far too many events where he makes the most absurd noises that he's little different from Ray Comfort. He's a complicated fella. And he can't be easily boxed into any one category. So with this brief post, I hope to do him some justice.

Let's start with what made Peterson internationally famous: Bill C-16.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Quote Of The Day: 1982 Essay By Christopher Hitchens On The Atheists Who Like Religion

Hitchens in one his his first
TV appearances, 1983
Way back in July of 1982, Christopher Hitchens wrote an essay against the "witless worship" of the religious mentality in Harper's Bazaar magazine, and penned several arguments that he would later use in his most famous godless work 25 years later: god Is Not Great. It demonstrates that Hitchens had been making such arguments for decades.

In his essay The Lord and the Intellectuals, Hitchens makes light of the problems of abject religious worship and how there's a class of people too smart to believe in god proper, yet believe in religion for its apparent utility. His eloquent prose is no less articulate than it would be in later years.

So atheism strikes me as morally superior, as well as intellectually superior, to religion. Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong. Does this leave us shorn of hope? Not a bit of it. Atheism, and the related conviction that we have just one life to live, is the only sure way to regard all our fellow creatures as brothers and sisters. The alleged “fatherhood” of God does not, as liberation theology has it, make this axiomatic. All it has meant, throughout history, is a foul squabble for primacy in Daddy’s affections. In just the same way that any democracy is better than any dictatorship, so even the compromise of agnosticism is better than faith. It minimizes the totalitarian temptation, the witless worship of the absolute and the surrender of reason, that may have led some to saintliness but can hardly repay for the harm it bas done. 
We need a general “deprogramming,” of the sort that even our churches endorse when the blank-eyed victim is worshiping the Reverend Moon. The desire to worship and obey is the problem—the object of adoration is a secondary issue. Professedly godless men have shown themselves capable of great crimes. But they have not invented any that they did not learn from the religious, and so they find themselves heaping up new “infallible” icons and idols. Stalinism, which was actually Stalin worship, could not have occurred in a country that had not endured several centuries of the divine right of kings. It is the religious mentality that has to be combated.

Hitchens had indeed been writing god Is Not Great all his life, as he said numerous times.

I also noticed that Hitchens was younger than I am now when he wrote the essay. This is something I've been noticing a lot as I get older. I'm increasingly made aware that great achievements by noted people were younger than I currently am. Why that matters to me is, apparently, derived from my constant comparison of myself to others. But it's something I must get used to.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mindscape Podcast

Physicist Sean Carroll just launched a new podcast called Mindscape. Seems like everyone's got a podcast now! I even had one 2 years ago before we gave up to devote time to the now dead atheist conference.

Carroll's podcast looks promising. I don't know if it's anywhere other than YouTube, but here's a link below. He interviews physicist Carlo Rovelli on quantum mechanics, spacetime, and reality. One of these days I'm going to make a documentary on spacetime and eternalism. I'd be interested in interviewing both Rovelli and Carroll for it. Check it out:

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won!

So, in the past 2 weeks the big political news has been that 28 year old first time candidate for New York's 14th congressional district, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, won the democratic primary by double digits.

She won to a large extent, not by playing racial identity politics, as had been reported, but by offering a targeted progressive platform that included universal healthcare (which most Democrats either don't want or are too afraid to run on) and tuition free college and trade schools (paid for, in part, by taxing Wall Street speculations).

As reported by the Intercept, she won in the parts of the district that tend to be the most gentrified (read: most white). So to chalk up her success merely to changing demographics is a bit dishonest. It's the narrative many establishment Democrats want to believe is true, since they do not want Ocasio-Cortez's progressive agenda.

I can't say I agree with her entire platform. I'm not on board with the abolish ICE position and the seemingly open borders attitude permissive on most of the Left. As Milton Friedman said, you can't have open borders and a social welfare state. I think Democrats need to have a serious conversation on their position on illegal immigration. They have to ask themselves what level of immigration enforcement are they willing to accept, since many do indeed seem to want open borders.

Aside from that there's much more I agree with Ocasio-Cortez on than disagree, especially on the free college and universal healthcare parts, and the end to our expensive and destructive drug war. It was reported that she's a pretty strong Catholic. But who cares? She's not traditionally Catholic on same sex marriage or abortion—the issues that tend to be the most divisive, and she's thoroughly progressive on every issue. Religion doesn't matter to me. It only does if religion is justifying positions I disagree with, and if it's used to violate the separation of church and state.

So given how blue the 14th district is, she will no doubt win the general election in the  November midterms. I just hope that when she gets to Washington she won't become corrupted. Her stance on not taking money from big donors will hopefully keep her working for the people.

Friday, July 6, 2018

"I Didn't Ask To Be Born" — A Reply To William Lane Craig

It's been a while since I've critiqued our old friend William Lane Craig, but I saw something on Twitter that got my eye. It was a link to a Reasonable Faith podcast from 2013 where Craig responds to a question over whether hell is justified given that each of us didn't ask to be born.

The questioner asked,

Dr. Craig, in what way is it justifiable for a single person to suffer hell when that person could ultimately say, “When did I ask to be born? I didn’t choose to be born. When did I choose this responsibility?” or “I don’t want to have lived,” as in, not suffer hell or enjoy heaven, just never have existed. Is it fair that we never were given that option?

Craig responds:

Dr. Craig: Yes, well, and we are; we are that way. But when you think about it, it could be no other way. It’s incoherent to say that we could be given the option to exist because if we are given the option to choose then we already exist – right? – so it’s logically impossible to give someone the option whether or not he wants to come into being. So it’s up to God; God is the one who chooses whom to create, whom to thrust into existence, and this is not unfair because this is a tremendous gift – the gift of existence, the gift of life. It is a tremendous blessing to exist, and to find the fulfillment of that existence in relationship with the infinite God, the paradigm of absolute goodness and love. It is what we were made for. The tragedy, Kevin, is that so many find themselves, given this gift of existence, existence is bestowed upon them, and then they squander it by ignoring God’s drawing and conviction to come to him and come to know him. They thrust life from them by holding God at arm’s length. And for them existence becomes a curse when, in fact, it was a tremendous blessing and ought to be a tremendous blessing, if they will only receive it.

As usual, I take issue with Craig's answer. Assuming a god exists with middle knowledge and divine foreknowledge, which Craig believes god has, god knows all counter factual possibilities and all future events, including what you would think and do before you're born. Which means, given god's middle knowledge and foreknowledge, god knows if you would have wanted to be born before you were born. He also knows whether or not you would "come to him and come to know him" before you were born.

Hence, it is false to say that it "could be no other way." Or that it's "incoherent to say that we could be given the option to exist." It's perfectly coherent given god's middle knowledge and foreknowledge. God would know all possible people who could be born and know if they would come to him or if they would not, before they were born. And that means to say it's incoherent is to necessarily deny middle knowledge and divine foreknowledge.

This has other implications as well. It is logically possible for god to only create people he knows will come to him, but god doesn't do that. God instead knowingly creates people that will be destined to hell (a hell that he created), and that wouldn't have wanted to be born. That is the real tragedy. And that is not a being I can say is worthy of being called the greatest conceivable being or having anyone's love, especially mine.

So in the end, Craig's response — as always — fails to address the issue.

*Middle knowledge is the view that god can know all possible future contingent events without any sort of perception of the world. Divine Foreknowledge is the view that god knows all future events before they happen due to omniscience. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Scholastic Principle of Sufficient Reason Is Rubbish

I am very confident that the oft toted principle of sufficient reason that theists tend to make, is self refuting: trying to apply it will necessarily lead to either an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or a brute fact, which is to say the PSR can't meet its own standard, not even when god is applied. (See here and here and here.)

Many Catholic theists themselves have recognized this and that's why they have to use a watered down version of the PSR to try and save them from this self refutation. But they technically can't. There's no way out of the problem. I will explain why by demonstrating this problem with a crazy Catholic apologist I sparred heavily with a few months ago over on the Strange Notions website.

 This is taken from a comment of a Catholic apologist quoting Edward Feser.

Here is the explanation Feser gives for his definition via Peter Weigel.

If your god can't meet the standards of the PSR as stated by Feser himself or that I've stated, you have no claim to say god is necessary, metaphysically or otherwise concrete extant objects and their arrangements... The demands of his model are thus notably different in scope from what in Leibniz is the principle of sufficient reason, in which the phenomena to be explained include propositions. As Leibniz presents the principle, every fact and every true proposition -- at least every contingent proposition -- must have an explanation. What is sufficient reason furthermore assures the truth of what it explains... Hence Leibniz’s rendition has a logical cast to it, whereas Aquinas is not fishing for reasons for every logically contingent proposition. For Aquinas, to say X explains or accounts for Y is not to say it necessary [sic] entails it (when Aquinas is talking about real-world causation). Aquinas thus in his model cautiously keeps in view the explanation of the existence of objects, not reasons for literally everything. Aquinas thinks truth and falsity always accrue to individual beliefs in minds. Propositions for him are thus beings of reason and do not exist as disembodied abstracta, so they are not things out there to be explained in the manner real beings are. (Weigel 2008, pp. 128-29)

Feser goes on to explain:

This point is crucial for understanding why some objections to the rationalist construal of PSR do not apply to PSR as understood by Scholastic writers. For example, one well-known objection to PSR asks us to consider the proposition comprising the conjunction of all true contingent propositions. Since each of its component conjuncts is contingent, this big proposition is contingent. In that case, the explanation of this big proposition cannot be a necessary proposition, for whatever is entailed by a necessary proposition is itself necessary. But neither can its explanation be a contingent proposition. For if it were, then that contingent proposition would itself be one conjunct among others in the big conjunction of contingent propositions. That would mean that the big conjunctive proposition explains itself. But the PSR tells us that no contingent proposition can explain itself. So, the big conjunctive proposition cannot have an explanation. But in that case there is something without an explanation, and PSR is false. (Cf. Ross 1969, pp. 295-304; Rowe 1997; Rowe 1998; Van Inwagen 1983, pp. 202-4; and the critical discussions in Gerson 1987 and Pruss 2009, pp. 50-58) From a Scholastic point of view this sort of argument is a non-starter, since on the Scholastic understanding of PSR, propositions are not among the things requiring explanation in the first place, and explanation does not require logical entailment.- Feser SCHOLASTIC METAPHYSICS. [Emphasis in original]

Now, I'm quoting him quoting Edward Feser, so I cannot guarantee accuracy of Feser's words. But I will take them as they are and assume they are accurately quoting Feser. Here's my response:

If your god can't meet the standards of the PSR, as stated by Feser himself, or that I've stated, you have no claim to say god is necessary—metaphysically or otherwise. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Cortez-Crowley Debate

Following up on my support for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's run for NY-14's congressional district, here's some of her debate with incumbent Joseph Crowley. She's fired up as you can tell. While Crowley's gotten a little comfortable.

You can also find her site here, where you can follow and contribute. Election day is June 26th. Spread the word to get this progressive in congress.


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